I know that some people, perhaps people much smarter than myself, are able to fall in love with stories that end in cliffhangers. They then get to make up what happens next, decide for themselves who does what, or wait anxiously and excitedly for the next installment. From all the marketing trainings I’ve done as an indie author it’s been pushed; write a great story, give it away for free, make people come back for the next, higher value piece. I just, I’m not into it.
I’ve been reading this series with a great premise. Sherlock Holmes’ niece and Bram Stoker’s sister team up, despite their very opposite personalities, to dispatch ne’er do wells in steampunk England. It’s a romp if you’re into that genre (and I am). The one thing the girls can agree on is they don’t sit comfortably in the strictures of their gender and time. I’m a sucker, as I’ve said before, for a strong female lead. Yet, this latest book irritated me to no end. In the middle of the action, just when everything is at its bleakest, the pages stop and the story ends. Over. No reward for reading, no payoff for sticking with the characters. Just over.
I used to say that I didn’t read series for this very reason. However, I’ve found that’s not true. Harry Potter was the staple of my literary diet as a teen. Now, I can’t get enough of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels and Clean Sweep or Kathleen Baldwin’s Stranje House series. The difference with these titles is that, even though they’re pulling you along the greater arc, each package comes tied at the end, the wrapping perfectly done. You know there’s more to come but you don’t feel as though you’ve been cheated. That’s the work of a masterful writer, to keep readers wanting more without NEEDING it for characters and their adventures to feel complete.
Another one of these I can think of is Amy Bai’s Sword. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve checked both her author site and Amazon to see if the sequel is in the pipeline. Not because the first story needs it, it doesn’t. I check because the writing was so good, the character growth so tangible and relatable, she could go on writing about those characters forever without my getting tired of reading them.
I want to be a writer like that.
I haven’t yet tried my hand at a series, and right now I have no plans to do so. I did follow up Autumnal Dancer with a subsequent short, focused mainly on the two main characters’ stumbles and misfires before their wedding. It’s not really a series, as I called An Uncertain Proposal (the short) a standalone. You can read it before Autumnal Dancer or after or having never read Autumnal Dancer at all. I did it for fun because I enjoyed writing those characters and wanted to see them make it to the altar, even if there isn’t a physical one at their rather unconventional ceremony. I wrote it mainly for me, but I liked it enough to share with the world.
Eventually I want to like a character, or rather a set of them, enough to stay with them for more than one book. It’s not that I didn’t like Asha, Isetnofret, or Asarsit (who was my clear favorite to flesh out) from Asha in Time. It’s that I felt like I told their stories. There wasn’t anything left that needed expounding on. Their adventures just felt like a one and done kind of deal.
When I do, however, let me remember this post. A reader, this reader, does not want to be left hanging. It’s mean in a tv series (and the reason I stopped watching Agents of Shield with my husband) and it’s just as tiresome in writing. I read a book for that “ahhh” moment at the end, for the feeling of traveling a twisting, dark path with a character and reaching sunlight in the final pages. I read because, whatever failures and setbacks I’ve gone through with a protagonist, I know there will be some triumph at the end. I don’t want to wait for the next book to experience that.
As an aside, again, I know not everyone feels this way. It is why I don’t pick up things with Cleopatra or Salem in the title. 🤷🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️